The Benefits of Planting Small Trees
As you have already read in my post about planting a tree assuming you did read it planting a tree correctly is a lot more complicated than most people believe. But I have good news for you would be tree planters out there. There is a type of tree that is easy to plant, cheap to buy and easy to get from the nursery to the planting site.
Small Bare Root Trees (SBRTs)
That’s right the little small sticks tucked in the back of the nursery that look like the unwanted step child are the trees you want to plant instead of their big siblings up front. I assert this for several reasons which I will go into now.
Light/Easy to Move
Perhaps the most appealing reason to plant small trees is that they are very light. Anyone that has tried to plant a container or balled and burlaped tree will know that they can be heavy and unwieldy to move around. Small BRTs trees can be small and light enough that even a 10 year old child can handle multiple trees at once. This opens up the option of turning tree planting into a family affair where everyone down to the smallest child can help out.
Better Root Health
SBRT's also have a advantage when it comes to root health. When you plant large potted or balled and burlaped trees they almost always come with root issues that need to be addressed. This could include compacted root balls, circling/girdling roots, stunted roots, or large number of roots removed during the harvest process.
All of these are mostly non-existent in SBRT's since they haven’t had time to develop large root systems and since they are field grown the roots develop more naturally.
There is a rule of thumb in the tree planting world that for every inch of diameter the tree has it is about 1 year for that tree to become established and start really growing again. So, if you plant a large 3 inch diameter tree it will essentially just sit there for a couple years before it starts really growing again. By contrast is you plant a half inch diameter small bare root tree it will put on growth you can see that same year assuming you plant it in the spring and take care of it. It has been shown in multiple studies that small trees will catch up with bigger ones in a matter of years and will most likely the same size or bigger in just a handful of years.
By now it should be painfully obviously that small trees cost less than larger trees, but you may not yet understand how much that cost difference is. A potted or balled and burlaped can cost anywhere from 80-300 dollars depending on the size and the species of the tree. While if you look at the Arbor Day foundation website you can get a small bare root tree for around 10 dollars. You can find trees even cheaper if you work with your local conservation district office and buy trees through them. This means that instead of planting just one tree you can plant 5,10 or 15 for the price of one.
Think about that next time you want to plant a tree.
Moral of the Story
The moral of this story is that small trees are a great option for planting and you should take a look at them when deciding what type and size of tree to get.
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